POTTSTOWN - Seth Ecker got the win that not too long ago he actually thought was unreachable. But Steve DeRafelo got an even bigger win that for a while Saturday afternoon even he didn't think was attainable.
The holiday joy was evident from virtually every corner of Strom Gymnasium after Ecker recorded his 100th career win to give Pottstown a 16-12 lead midway through its annual brawl with Owen J. Roberts. However, it was DeRafelo and his Wildcats pumping their chests with a mighty ho-ho-ho after using three pins and a major decision in the final four bouts to pull out the 37-28 victory.
"What's always been important to me is realizing (wrestling) is an individual sport, and even though you hope for the best for everyone else, look at what this guy or that guy should do, you have to worry about yourself," Ecker said. "In the end, you hope the individual effort(s) bring together a win."
Pottstown's lightweight extraordinaire, a two-time state medalist and only the fifth Trojan to reach the milestone - not to mention an honor student away the mats - did his best Saturday with an 11-0 major over OJR's Will Bentley, who happens to be one of the area's better lightweights himself. But with the exception of pins from teammates Anthony Mazzerle (215) and Fred Holly (285) earlier, and a forfeit to Tim Penrose (135) and pin by Ray Shaffer (140) later - which created a 28-15 lead for the hosts - the combined efforts just weren't enough.
OJR (2-0, 3-5 overall) erased the deficit in a hurry with its last-minute, four-bout flurry. DeRafelo obviously expected to get two wins, but wasn't too sure about the other two.
Connor McCormick initiated the comeback with a 35-second pin at 145, then unsung Bryan Andrien provided the first surprise with a 1:37 pin at 152, getting the Wildcats to within one at 28-27. Nick Fuschino followed with a 19-second pin at 160. And Jordan Stierly, who came up with all the right moves to protect OJR's lead in a win over Perkiomen Valley earlier this week, did it again Saturday with an 18-7 major in the 171-pound finale.
"We were still confident (down 28-15)," said Fuschino, now 13-1 on the young season. "That was a big match for Andrien. He's a sophomore and didn't even know if he'd go or not today, but he got thrown in there at the last minute and did a great job. But the real match for us was Jordan Stierly. Last year he had a rough time, but this year he's been stepping it up and has been real impressive."
So much so that he avenged two of last year's losses all in one week ... and no two have been bigger in Stierly's career.
"Two weeks in a row now we've had to go to Jordan and both times he's stepped up big," DeRafelo added. "And Andrien, I mean here's a kid who works out with McCormick, Fuschino and Stierly, battling three very good kids, and it's difficult for him to get into the lineup. Fortunately he was able to get out there today and did he ever help us out."
Helped out big-time.
"This is always a big match for us," said Fuschino. "We always expect a tough match, too. Last year, losing (the Ecker Trophy) for the first time in six or seven years, that's was tough. We wanted to win this, get (the trophy) back for our seniors."
The Wildcats didn't get it back easily, though.
"We our ourselves in the only position we could with what we had today," said Pottstown head coach Eric Dusko. "We had our chance at the end."
"We knew this would be tricky," DeRefalo said. "Both teams were missing guys and we weren't at full strength. But our kids responded, so it's a good win."
And an afternoon Ecker is likely to remember for quite some time.
"Getting (the 100th) is a benchmark," Ecker said. "I didn't know if I could get this, but a lot of people showed me the doors I could walk through and helped me get to this point. I only had like 12 wins as a freshman, so I thought it would be difficult and it never did weight on my mind a lot.
"But when you get close, yes, you start thinking about it. This is a good feeling, but it would've felt a lot better if we had one the match."
NOTES Pottstown slipped to 2-4 overall. ... Ecker and Stierly were named their respective team's Outstanding Wrestler in the match. ... Ecker joins Brian Campbell (100), step-brothers Jarred and Jordan Haring (103 wins each), and Joey Allen (132) as the only Trojans to reach the 100-win plateau. He'll attempt to tie Allen's school record of three state medals by season's end.